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24 Sept 2002 : Column 108—continued

6.46 pm

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): Like one or two other Labour Members, I am strangely in agreement with sentiments expressed by the hon. Members for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) and for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). I find more resonance in what they said than in the Prime Minister's statement or the Foreign Secretary's speech.

I certainly did not understand the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who seemed to be saying that it was the rest of the world that was out of step with the United Nations, and that we should get in step with the United States because that is the realpolitik of the world today. I remind him that it was not the rest of the world that stopped making its contributions to the UN or that set out to scupper the UN and its agencies. It certainly was not the leader of the rest of the world, whoever that may be—although perhaps that, too, is George Bush twice over—who went to the UN and said that it should back him in what he wanted to do, or he would do it anyway. That is the rub.

I have listened carefully to what has been said today, and of course I read the dossier. I share the reservations expressed by Government and Opposition Members about that. I do not think that it adds anything to the sum total of our knowledge of what a nasty regime there is in Iraq and what a nasty man Saddam Hussein is. I wonder about the timing of the document, and why it came into being at all. As I recall, it was promised in lieu of the kind of debate that we are having today, and it was only because of the pressure of the House and of public opinion that we have had the document and are having this debate. Without that pressure, and similar pressure from like-minded people in the United States, I do not believe that the US would have gone to the United Nations at all.

Let me sound a note of caution about the Joint Intelligence Committee. Anyone who knows anything about these matters knows that the quid pro quo for military co-operation with the US is that it shares intelligence with us. I hazard a guess that many of the dossier's allegations are based on American-led intelligence. They may be true—I do not know—but let us remember that these are the same intelligence services that misled Congress at the outbreak of the first Gulf war, when they said that 350,000 Iraqi troops were massed on the Kuwaiti border. It was Congress, not I, that declared that it had been misled.

It was the same intelligence services that said that a chemical factory in Khartoum was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, which has since been found not to be true. They were the ones who failed to analyse the information that they had before the dreadful events of 11 September last year.

My second point is about the confusion between the British and American Governments. Is this about eradicating weapons of mass destruction or regime change? I distinctly heard the Foreign Secretary emphasise that the objective was to eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Before we place too much faith in Hans

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Blix, let us remember that in April this year, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defence, ordered a CIA investigation into Hans Blix, presumably because it was felt that he could not be relied upon to deliver the goods.

If this is not about eradicating the weapons of mass destruction, it is about regime change. Senior members of the US Administration have a long record of advocating this. On 26 January 1998, a letter was written to President Clinton which said:

I am sure that many lunatics write to Presidents, as they do to Prime Ministers. However, the signatories included Donald Rumsfeld, now Defence Secretary, the aforementioned Paul Wolfowitz, now Deputy Secretary of Defence, and John Bolton, Richard Perle and Richard Armitage, all luminaries of the current US Administration. We know exactly what their objective is.

It is certainly true that on that dreadful day of 11 September, it was reported in the American media that a meeting was held by the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, at 2.40 that afternoon, at which he allegedly ordered his staff to see whether there was good enough information to hit Saddam Hussein. They were already considering applying a long-standing agenda about regime change. If right hon. and hon. Members want any further confirmation, they need only cast their mind back to the BBC's blanket coverage on the night of 11 September when Richard Perle, chairman of the Defence Policy Board in the Pentagon, trotted out the regimes that had to be removed.

In this debate, we must contextualise what is going on. There is no doubt in my mind that the US Administration have set themselves certain strategic targets. They have effected a change to their national security policy in which pre-emption, not deterrence, is the order of the day. They have revisited their nuclear policy so that they can use tactical and strategic nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive way but also against non-nuclear powers. They have also adopted a military strategy—joint vision 20:20—that states quite explicitly that their aim is full-spectrum dominance in air, sea, land, space and information.

There is no secret about this; it has been discussed in right-wing circles in the USA for many years. It has been adopted by the Administration—that is their right as an Administration, whether we like it and approve of it or not. We must decide whether the path that we are taking best serves the interests of this country and best reflects public opinion and, more important, fears about the direction in which the US Administration are taking America.

I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) and others that we make a distinction between the Administration and the people of America. I receive a huge number of e-mails from concerned people in America and they go right across the spectrum. They are as concerned as we are, but their national situation is different, as is the way that their media operate.

My particular concern is that if we are not careful and it is Iraq today, I am sure that it will be Iran tomorrow and Syria the day after. I am sure that Donald Rumsfeld's prediction last year that China is the ultimate enemy will

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come to pass. I hate to say it, but we have a group of people in key positions driving an Administration who, in my view, are almost paranoid. I describe these cold war warriors not as hawks but as pterodactyls because they mix views of a dim and distant past with the new technologies and realpolitik of the 21st century.

We must be very careful about understanding where we might go. I hope to goodness that we do not go in that direction; I hope that the attempts at diplomacy are successful. However, we must be careful not to tie ourselves to a strategy that most people do not begin to understand, much less appreciate, once they know about it.

6.55 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): I am delighted to catch your eye in this important debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle). He is one of the true independent voices in the House and speaks a great deal of common sense.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for, rather belatedly, acceding to the request of my right hon. and hon. Friends to hold a debate on this important subject. He should have published the dossier before 8 o'clock this morning to allow right hon. and hon. Members time in which to digest it prior to the debate. I hope that the House will be immediately recalled to debate any future developments. The number of people here shows how important the debate is.

I have had scores of letters from constituents on this subject. People are very concerned about the prospect of going to war with Saddam Hussein. They are right to be so because the basis and the evidence need to be absolutely clear before we take such a step.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is one of the most evil dictators the world has ever seen. We know that more than 1 million people were killed in the Iran-Iraq war. We know that he launched mustard gas attacks against Iran and against his own people. In the Gulf war not only did he annex Kuwait but he launched Scud missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia. We know that his is an extremely evil regime. However, those who really suffer are the people of Iraq. Those 22 million people live in a country that has the world's second largest proven oil reserves, yet in 1996 they had a gross domestic product income per head of just under $600.

Iraq has a highly educated middle class. Some 54 per cent. of people in the urban population are middle class and educated, yet they still have an appalling standard of living. In the 1990s, the number of child deaths from water pollution either doubled or trebled, according to which source one believes.

This is an evil regime, yet we must deal with it properly, otherwise we will not take the world coalition of front-line Arab and other states with us. We had that coalition in the Gulf war; it is essential to maintain it again, whatever action we take against Saddam Hussein.

This is a very important debate. It comes at a time when the United Nations is deciding what sort of resolution it might draw up and pass. People seem to have forgotten the history of the matter. In 1998, UNSCOM, the weapons inspectors, finally had to leave Iraq. Britain and the United States have tried repeatedly to get strong

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resolutions so that they could go back but they have been thwarted by other nations on the Security Council. I hope that this debate will form part of the process so that we can get a strong and clear renewed UN mandate. That mandate must set clear goals and a clear timetable. That must be followed, if there is still non-compliance by Saddam Hussein, by a proper ultimatum. Only then should we consider committing our troops and forces to war.

Using the royal prerogative and committing troops to war is one of the most serious things that any Prime Minister can do. The right hon. Gentleman needs the support and backing of this Parliament. That is why I urge him to recall Parliament quickly in all future developments.

It is essential to consider what sort of regime could come after any action is taken against Saddam Hussein. Surely, before we go to war, the ultimate aim must be to get the weapons inspectors back. I do not believe that the dossier published this morning contains much new evidence that is not known by the international community. Let us get the weapons inspectors back into Iraq, backed up by force if necessary. If they have unfettered and unhindered access to the whole of Iraq, including the presidential palaces, we will know for certain what facilities Iraq has. If Saddam Hussein does not comply with a tough UN resolution, we must back it up by force, but I hope that we are some way off that yet.

We need to consider the effect of any action on what might come afterwards. It did not happen in the Gulf war, but it might be that if Saddam Hussein and his regime were no longer in power, the fragile coalition that exists there might break up. If Iraq breaks up, stability in the region could be in serious jeopardy. The old doctrine used to be that Iraq and Iran should be roughly equal. We are postulating taking action against Iraq, which might have nuclear capability, but we know for certain that its neighbour, Iran, does have such capability.

We must also be careful about stability in the region because of Islamic fundamentalism within Arab countries and within countries that have large Arab populations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. We do not wish to inflame Arab temperaments by taking action that is pejorative. That is why we need UN resolutions.

If we take action against Saddam Hussein, we will be calling for restraint from the Israelis, particularly the Israeli Prime Minister. They behaved with great restraint during the Gulf war when Scud missiles were being launched at them and I appeal to them, as will the international community, to show the same restraint if we have to take action against Saddam Hussein.

We need to look at what will happen to international oil supplies. I have already said that Iraq has the world's second largest proven oil reserves, but it is not just Iraq's potential 3.5 billion barrels a day that must concern us, but the production of oil in the entire middle east. We must take steps to minimise any disruption to oil supplies to the west. We all know that the three-day war in 1973 was followed by a huge period of inflation.

I will not use up all my allotted time because I know that many others wish to speak. This is an important debate and is a possible precursor to our country going to

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war. I ask the House to consider the most important question, which is whether action is more risky than inaction. I suggest that since 11 September last year terrorism has become a permanent fixture on the world stage and that international norms of behaviour will never be the same again. It is better to act with consensus and diplomacy and within the rule of law than to take pre-emptive action. If we take pre-emptive action, who knows whether other countries might think that it is right for them to do the same?

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